Robust peer-to-peer systems



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Peer-to-peer (p2p) approaches are an increasingly effective way to deploy services. Popular examples include BitTorrent, Skype, and KaZaA. These approaches are attractive because they can be highly fault-tolerant, scalable, adaptive, and less expensive than a more centralized solution. Cooperation lies at the heart of these strengths. Yet, in settings where working together is crucial, a natural question is: "What if users stop cooperating?" After all, cooperative services are typically deployed over multiple administrative domains, and thus vulnerable to Byzantine failures and users who may act selfishly. This dissertation explores how to construct p2p systems to tolerate Byzantine participants while also incentivizing selfish participants to contribute resources. We describe how to balance obedience against choice in building a robust p2p live streaming system. Imposing obedience is desirable as it leaves little room for peers to attack or cheat the system. However, providing choice is also attractive as it allows us to engineer flexible and efficient solutions. We first focus on obedience by using Nash equilibria to drive the design of BAR Gossip, the first gossip protocol that is resilient to Byzantine and selfish nodes. BAR Gossip relies on verifiable pseudo-random partner selection to eliminate non-determinism, which can be used to game the system, while maintaining the robustness and rapid convergence of traditional gossip. A novel fair enough exchange primitive entices cooperation among selfish peers on short timescales, thereby avoiding the need for distributed reputation schemes. We next focus on tempering obedience with choice by using approximate equilibria to guide the construction of a novel p2p live streaming system. These equilibria allow us to design incentives to limit selfish behavior rigorously, yet provide sufficient flexibility to build practical systems. We show the advantages of using an [element of]-Nash equilibrium, instead of an exact Nash, to design and implement FlightPath, our live streaming system that uses bandwidth efficiently, absorbs flash crowds, adapts to sudden peer departures, handles churn, and tolerates malicious activity.